Adam Mayer describes a fascinating experiment with the MakerBot Cupcake CNC. As readers may recall, the 'Bot extrudes hot plastic (ABS or PLA) in a consistent manner. By moving the build platform along the X, Y and Z axes appropriately, the desired object is formed. However, not everything can be built in this manner. Overhangs are an obvious issue, but Adam has overcome another issue: texturing.
In his experiment, he scripted code to alter the federate during printing. Normally the feedrate is static, as we desire smooth, identically shaped extrusions. However, smooth extrusions means smooth surface textures on the resulting objects. By dynamically twiddling with the federate, Adam was able to control the thickness of the extrusion in a very delicate way. By deftly manipulating the new dynamic thickness, he was able to build up controlled and detailed texturing on the printed surface. It's a whole new dimension to home 3D printing!
Why do we like this development so much? Simply because it's exploration. The MakerBot and its cousins are complex devices with a staggering number of parameters to manage. One of the most fundamental is volume of plastic being extruded, and up till now one might assume it should simply be a constant. But not so - Adam questioned that thinking and managed to change the paradigm in a substantial way, opening up a world of designs not yet realized.
This is the foundation of open source; exploration and questioning of the status quo, and the discovery of a better world. What else needs a tweak?